Vintage typewriters have long fascinated me – both for their elegance and mechanical ingenuity. For years I have been passively looking for one to buy, and earlier this year stumbled upon a fabulous pre-WWII Olivetti MP1 model at a small antiques market in Florence, Italy. The MP1 was introduced by Olivetti in 1932 as the company’s first portable model. Because of its rarity and excellent condition the seller wanted 350 euros for it. I decided not to buy it, but the elegant machine stayed on my mind. Then just weeks later there was another, much larger antiques market in Florence where a rather scruffy but kindly gentleman offered a very dusty but perfectly preserved and operational Olivetti Studio 42 model for sale – for a mere 25 euros!
Olivetti introduced the Studio 42 model just three years after the MP1, in 1935, as a semi-portable model. The Studio 42 is slightly more robust than the MP1, but is still fairly compact with an open keyboard layout with classic round keys. The design is very functional and highly elegant – from the curved typewriter arms to the beautiful chromed letters OLIVETTI. The mechanics were developed by engineer Ottavio Luzzati while architects Figini & Pollini and Bauhaus-designer Xanti Schawinsky were responsible for the overall design.
The Olivetti Studio 42 was produced with different keyboard configurations for various countries around the world from 1935 up until the early 1950s. It was even favoured in the
Vatican as the personal machine for Pope Pius XII. Today an Olivetti Studio 42 can be found in the permanent collection of the Triennale Design Museum in Milan. My dusty machine, which probably sat unused in a shed somewhere for years, came with the original case with chromed lock and leather handle. The typewriter can be secured into the case to carry it around – although because of its weight this was not an easy task to carry it across Florence back to my apartment. Now all it needs is a thorough cleaning and a new 3-color (black-red-green) ribbon and it’s as good as new.